Teeth clenching and grinding are common involuntary reactions to anger, fear, or stress. In some people, this reaction plays out repeatedly throughout the day, even if they are not responding to an immediate stressor. These involuntary teeth grinding is known as bruxism.

Bruxism can happen while awake or asleep, but people are much less likely to know that they grind their teeth when sleeping. Because of the force applied during episodes of sleep bruxism, the condition can pose serious risks to tooth and jaw health and may require treatment to reduce its impact.

What Is Sleep Bruxism?
Sleep bruxism is teeth grinding that happens during sleep and is marked by movement of the masticatory muscles responsible for chewing. Sleep bruxism and waking bruxism are considered to be distinct conditions. The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information even though the physical action is similar. Of the two, awake bruxism is more common.

It is often much harder for people to be aware that they are grinding their teeth while sleeping, which makes diagnosis challenging.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Bruxism?

The main symptom of sleep bruxism is involuntary clenching and grinding of the teeth during sleep. The movements resemble chewing but generally involve more force.

People with sleep bruxism don’t grind their teeth throughout the night. Instead, they have episodes of clenching and grinding which usually last up to one second. People may have very few episodes per night or up to 100. The frequency of episodes is often inconsistent, and teeth grinding may not occur every night.

Some amount of mouth movement is normal during sleep. Up to 60% of people make occasional chewing-like motions known as rhythmic masticatory muscle activities (RMMA), but in people with sleep bruxism, these occur with greater frequency and force.

The majority of sleep bruxism takes place early in the sleep cycle, during stages 1 and 2 of non-REM sleep. A small percentage of episodes can arise during REM sleep.

It is normal for people who grind their teeth at night to not be cognizant of this behavior unless they are told about it by a family member or bed partner. However, some symptoms can be an indication of sleep bruxism.

Jaw and neck pain are two frequent signs of teeth grinding. Pain occurs due to the tightening of these muscles during episodes of bruxism. Morning headaches that feel like tension headaches are another potential symptom. Unexplained damage to teeth can also be a sign of nighttime clenching and grinding of teeth.

What Are the Consequences of Sleep Bruxism?

Long-term consequences of sleep bruxism can include significant harm to the teeth, First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, the Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. Teeth may become painful, eroded, and mobile. Dental crowns, fillings, and implants can also become damaged.

Teeth grinding can increase the risk of problems with the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull, known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ issues can provoke difficulty chewing, chronic jaw pain, popping or clicking noises, locking of the jaw, and other complications.

Not everyone with sleep bruxism will have serious effects. The extent of symptoms and long-term consequences depend on the severity of the grinding can affect the alignment of a person’s teeth, their diet, and whether they have other conditions that can affect the teeth like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Nighttime teeth grinding can also impact a bed partner. The noise from clenching and grinding can be bothersome, making it harder for a person sharing the bed to get restful sleep.
Why Do I Grind My Teeth at Night?
Multiple factors influence the risk of sleep bruxism, so it can be difficult to identify a single cause for why people grind their teeth. That said, certain risk factors are associated with a greater probability of sleep bruxism.

  • High stress levels: Stress is one of the most significant reasons. Clenching the teeth when facing negative situations is a common reaction, which can carry over to episodes of sleep bruxism. Teeth grinding is also believed to be connected to higher levels of anxiety.
  • Genetics: Researchers have determined that sleep bruxism has a genetic component and can run in families. As many as half of people with sleep bruxism will have a close family member who also experiences the condition.
  • Irregular sleep patterns: Episodes of teeth grinding appear to be connected to changing sleep patterns or microarousals from sleep. Most teeth grinding is preceded by increases in brain and cardiovascular activity. This may explain the associations that have been found between sleep bruxism and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes temporary sleep interruptions from lapses in breathing.

How Is Sleep Bruxism Diagnosed?
Sleep bruxism is diagnosed by a doctor or a dentist. 

For many people, the presence of symptoms like tooth damage and jaw pain combined with reports of teeth grinding from a bed partner may be sufficient to determine that a person has sleep bruxism.
What Are the Treatments for Sleep Bruxism?
There is no treatment that can completely eliminate or cure teeth grinding during sleep, but several approaches can decrease episodes and limit damage to the teeth and jaw.

Some people who grind their teeth have no symptoms and may not need treatment. Other people may have symptoms or greater risk of long-term problems, and in these cases, treatment is usually necessary.

The best treatment for sleep bruxism varies based on the individual, and should always be overseen by a doctor or dentist who can explain the benefits and downsides of a therapy in the patient’s specific situation.

The treatment of bruxism varies depending on its cause:

  • Dental problems — If your bruxism is related to tooth problems,  the Beacon Dental Clinic can correct tooth alignment. We also may make a mouth guard or bite splint that fits your mouth and teeth. This will help prevent further damage to the teeth. In some cases, it may help your teeth and muscles to realign.

Contact us if you have symptoms of bruxism, or if you are told that you grind your teeth while you sleep.
Stress Reduction
High levels of stress contribute to bruxism when awake and asleep, so taking steps to reduce and manage stress may help naturally decrease teeth grinding.

Reducing exposure to stressful situations is ideal, but of course, it is impossible to completely eliminate stress. As a result, many approaches focus on combating negative responses to stress in order to reduce its impact.

For further information on Bruxism, please contact us today to make an appointment

Source: Sleep Foundation